Mummies fascinate us. As we peer at their withered flesh, we are glimpsing a type of immortality. Heather Pringle tells the stories of some of these "frail elders"--and the scientists who study them--in The Mummy Congress
Pringle details the tension between the preservationists, who want to protect the ancient dead and refuse to unwrap them, and the dissectionists, who see mummies as a repository of scientific data waiting to be studied. She also introduces the reader to the preserved dead from around the world--from the bog bodies of northern Europe to the mysterious Caucasian-looking mummies from China's Tarim Basin, from Egyptians in linen shrouds to incorruptible Christian saints, and from Lenin in his Moscow mausoleum to Incan children found on Andean mountaintops.
Peppered with fascinating snippets of information--for example, for centuries artists were sold on a pigment called "mummy," a transparent brown made from ground-up mummies--The Mummy Congress makes for lively, if somewhat ghoulish reading. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney
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From Publishers Weekly
Pringle's mummy experts are livelier than a crypt full of stacked corpses. This is high praise given how successfully the author animates the dead in this delightfully macabre piece of mortuary globe-trotting. The trip begins at the World Congress on Mummy Studies, held last in arid Arica, Chile. Arica's climate makes it the ideal place to bring your mummy as eccentric scholars do, by the busload. From South America, Pringle, a frequent contributor to magazines like Discover and Islands, departs for the global ateliers of this weird profession, from the makeshift morgue of Art Aufderheide in Egypt, where plastic bags full of brittle corpses are piled by the dozens; to the Peruvian mountaintops, where an American adventurer's discovery of a beautiful Inca girl named "Juanita," an ancient and flawless sacrifice to the gods, ignites a media frenzy; to the subterranean caverns beneath Red Square, where a team of mausoleumists tended to Lenin's lifelike remains, and freelanced their skills out to fellow communists wanting to see their own dead leaders under glass. Pringle's gifts as a writer and a journalist are evident on every page. In brisk, vivid prose she delivers the secrets of the mummy trade: mummies as medicine; the self-preservation techniques of Japanese monks; and the Vatican's modern-day practitioners of the temple priest's art. Pringle's mummies and the men and women who love them make for fascinating and lively reading; this book is sure to have, as they say, a very long shelf life. Agent, Anne McDermida. (June)Forecast: A five-city author museum tour and undoubtedly many positive reviews will help the book reach its potentially wide audience, way beyond the usual gallery of science fans.
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